On Kindness

“I can’t believe you are running in the bike lane,” she grumbled to me as I flew past her. I can’t believe, I am faster than you on a bike, I wanted to say, along with a few other mean things that would of surely just caused a more righteous anger on her part. I wanted to explain to her I was running a workout. I wanted to tell her I was currently struggling to keep up my pace and could really use some words of encouragement. I wanted to tell her that I did this all the time and I am always careful, cautious, and respectful. I wanted to question her and ask why I couldn’t be on bike path when I was clearly going a faster pace than her on the bike. I mostly wanted to shake my head and say why are you so angry? But instead of all this, I smiled, I waved, and I laughed.

The thing with kindness is that it is not always the easier choice, but I have found it is always the right one. It is the one that actually holds the power to change, transform, and teach. It would of been so easy for me to yell back at this unreasonable lady that in many ways was out of line with making that type of comment; however, that would of done nothing. It would only justify in her mind that I deserved to be reprimanded. Kindness is untouchable. She was angry and rude, and I gave her back laughter. There is nothing she can do with that. It stops the situation in its tracks. The truth is, my tongue cannot always be trusted. It is enslaved to sin and pride. If I allowed myself to speak, it would have been mean and unkind, I guarantee it. So I kept silent and I laughed and smiled. I then preceded to go down to the strand that is designated for bikes and runners. The funny thing is that she followed me and passed me as I recovered and got ready for my last set: 2 minutes, all out pace. As I began this final set, she was about 100 meters ahead. I was no longer racing the clock, I was chasing her down. Before this little encounter, I was dying, ready to be done with this painful workout, but thanks to this lady, I found a new gear. I sprinted. I flew. I felt unstoppable. And I passed her. I wanted to again say so many things, like, I can’t believe your riding so slow, but again I looked at her and smiled and then kept running.

Kindness is always better. It is always the more powerful sword. The fact is not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone likes a fast girl. Not everyone will understand you. Let’s just be real honest, would that lady have made the comment if I was running that fast, but was a man? I’m not sure, but part of me wonders if she would have. I think maybe not. This makes me sad. I long to be the gal that doesn’t shake her finger, but instead cheers, claps, encourages with loads and loads of kindness. As that lady looked at me and said, “I can’t believe…” I truly thought she was going to say, “I can’t believe how fast you are going! Way to go!”. Kindness is simply not always on the forefront of our lips. It does not always come naturally. It is far easier to critique, question, put down. Especially in those moments where we feel threatened.

Kindness can be even more difficult in those moments where we feel wronged. I have recently been delving into the enneagram. Like nonstop listening and learning about all nine of the numbers. I go back and forth on which number I am, but I am pretty sure I am a 2. The helper. A large part of me didn’t want to be this number. I am not that good. I am selfish, lazy, and not always willing to serve. However, twos are most often associated with people-pleasing. And this rings so true to my heart. I am a people-pleaser and I often am enslaved to both the applause and criticism people serve me up. The weight I give people in my life is becoming incredibly problematic. The reason I bring this up is because I started this paragraph by saying kindness is especially hard to give when we feel wronged. I think this is true for most humans, but as a two this feels especially challenging for me. I put such high expectations on people that when I feel failed by them, it is so easy for me to hold grudges and keep a score in my head. I am working on this. The Bible is super clear on how we are supposed to love regardless of how we are treated.

“Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27-28

This is kindness. This is love. This does not come naturally to me. The thing with kindness is that I can’t do it in my own strength. Even my attempts at kindness have underlying motives: to be perceived in a certain way, to be loved by others. The only way I can even come close to living out those verses in Luke is if I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. It is beyond humbling to realize that even being truly nice to the people in my life is something I can’t do on my own. Oh how I need the Lord’s help. Oh how I need His Grace.

So back to the lady on the bike. Thank you for reminding me the power in not saying a thing. Thank you for reminding me that even my attempts at kindness are not pure. And ultimately thank you for getting me to run harder than I thought I could.

10 Reasons I Love MOMS Club

As I have already written a lot about, motherhood is hard work. It takes a village. You need a team, a community, a tribe behind you. In the first few months, I tried to prove I could do it all on my own. I tried to prove to God, myself, my husband, and those random strangers that I was supermom. Help? No, I got this on my own. Even in that very first month, after still recovering from a C-section, I wanted to show everyone that I was fine. It is funny looking back, but reading my journal from a year ago some of the things I was doing in those first few weeks were silly. I lifted the car seat on my own, even though I could literally feel the strain on my new incision. I cleaned out the entire refrigerator, I reorganized the pantry, and I cleaned our kitchen counters way more thoroughly than I do now. I took Hudson out on way too many outings, all again in an attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I was still living my normal life. I could do all the same things I used to, I kept telling myself. I was trying to do it all on my own. I am not exactly sure why, but I very strongly felt this need to show everyone how capable I was. I think part of the reason was that I was staying at home. If I was leaving my job as a teacher to fully focus on being at home, well then I better be the best mom I can possibly be. Those first couple months I drove myself (and probably Lance) insane. I isolated myself to the point of balling on the bathroom floor. If you have read a lot of my posts, this scene on the bathroom floor always seems to crop up in my writing. It was a literal low. It was July 29th. I was exhausted from a day of again trying to prove to the world that I had it all together. It was yet another night of failed breastfeeding. Another night of pumping, and I was about to lose it. I was losing it. I am thankful for that bathroom floor, because in my head that was the turning point. Things got better from that point. I had my moment of sulking on the floor, but then I got up and I began to let go of the things out of my control. I also found community through my local MOMS Club and this helped me for the first time not feel fully alone. Those first couple months I was constantly googling, constantly on all these different mom and breastfeeding forums. In some sense this was helpful, but there is nothing quite like an actual community of real moms that you can connect with. There are so many local mom groups and classes that you can join. While MOMS Club is more geared towards stay-at-home moms, there are so many resources and groups for all types of moms. Here is a resource from Motherly of 10 amazing mom groups. I can only write what I know and that is my own experience with MOMS Club. And my experience has been so positive. Joining the club has been hands down one of the best things I did in Hudson’s first year. It was a game changer. It allowed me to meet others moms that were so kind and nonjudgmental. It allowed me to have activities to occupy my time during the day. It allowed Hudson the opportunity to interact with babies and older kids. It ultimately helped me get off that bathroom floor and feel so much less alone. So, if you also find yourself in a similar place I was in on July 29th, find a group of people that can remind you that you are not alone and that you’ve got this. I feel thankful to have community within our church, but I am also thankful for the club for giving me a group of women that have also been in my same exact place of struggling with this new stay-at-home life.

Since I love lists so much, here is a list of the 10 reasons I love my MOMS Club.

1. There is always an event or activity to do

Every month, there is a calendar of events full of activities! There is basically an event every single day of the week. This has been so helpful to have set activities to go to for our daily outings. On days when I have no idea what to do, I look at the calendar and know that something fun is happening. In the early months, it was so helpful to have a reason to get out of the house. It made me feel less alone because I knew there would be other moms and kids there as well. By joining the club, I immediately had a calendar of things to do and amazing ladies and kids to do them with.

2. I have met many friends

I was used to having my work friends that I could eat lunches with and chat with every day. It was a weird adjustment to lose that. The club gave me a group of friends that I now can also eat lunches and chat with. These lunches just look different now. They often are picnic-style in a park. I am thankful that even though I am staying at home, I can still have a community of work friends, aka, mom friends.

3. Hudson has met many friends

The club has also been a great way for Hudson to socialize and meet other babies around his age and also be around older kids. I can so clearly remember one play date in particular where I was so touched by all the older kids being so kind to little, 4-month old Hudson. We were at the park and they were all surrounding him and giving him such sweet attention. It was in that moment that I felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. I have loved seeing how all the older kids have become such great friends through MOMS Club. I can’t wait for Hudson to make amazing friendships with all the other babies his age.

4. It is a Greate Value

This is a more trivial reason, but some of the different mom groups and classes can be really expensive. MOMS Club costs just a yearly due of $30. The club offers a value so much greater than 30 dollars. It has been such a valuable resource and community.

5. It is Local

I love how there are so many chapters available based on where you are living. It is really nice to be part of a group of people that all live in the same zip code. It makes it super convenient to attend the different events because most of them are just 10-15 minutes away. It was our neighbor just a few houses down the street that originally told me about MOMS Club. I am so thankful she did! It has been great to feel like I am more apart of our local community through getting to better know our neighbors.

6. It is Diverse

One of my favorite parts of the MOMS Club that I am a part of is how diverse the group is. I love that it feels very much like a melting pot. Diversity is very much encouraged and welcomed here. It is so great to have a group full of women of different colors, backgrounds and perspectives.

7. It is More Than Just Play Dates

The club is much more than park play dates. I love that there are a variety of other things offered through the club. From monthly general meetings that usually involve a speaker or a topic to discuss to parties and events specifically for the moms. There are mom’s nights out, holiday parties, and seasonal parties for the whole family. I love being part of something that encompasses so many elements. I love how it also helps me get out of the house just for myself to be with other moms and enjoy time together without kids.

8. It is Structured

Along with missing my work lunches, it was the structure of the work week that I also really missed. I really appreciate how official and structured MOMS Club is. There are the monthly general meetings, the weekly emails sent out with reminders of upcoming events and there is a board made of a few members that lead and make sure the club is organized and runs smoothly. While I never was part of the student body government in high school, I love how being part of the club feels like I am part of something that is governed and structured. The meetings are called to order. There is a president and treasury. There is an agenda and a budget. There is a newsletter. There is an installation dinner. For someone like me, bringing a little structure to the chaos of mom life is very much welcomed.

9. It is Easy to get Involved

As an extension to my previous point, the club is structured in such a way that makes it very easy to feel involved and part of the community. There is lots of room and flexibility to utilize your gifting to help support the club. You can be involved in the club in big ways, like serving on the board. Or, you can be involved by occasionally hosting a play date or event. There are also coordinating positions where you can be in charge of organize a type of event each month, for example, Hands On Play Dates, Mommy Time, or Baby Play Dates.

10. It Celebrates Motherhood

Probably one of my very favorite parts of the whole club. I love how I have found a group of ladies that all fully embrace and celebrate both the challenges and joys of motherhood. Becoming a mom has been the very best job of my life and I feel so thankful for MOMS Club for giving me a community that validates and celebrates our job as being mamas. From monthly events just for moms and the mystery mom gift exchange, I feel celebrated for everything I do as a mom and also celebrated for who I am when I don’t have a baby on my hip.

If you’re reading this and thinking: I need this in my life. Here is a link to the MOMS Club website to get more information of the club in your area!

To Be Known

This mama needs to be known.  For the past couple months, I have been more consistently going to a particular workout class at the yoga studio I go to.  Just to set the stage, this is one of those classes that always seems to be full.  The teacher is popular and has been teaching classes for ten plus years.  He has built a strong community within his different classes.  His classes are challenging, but also fun.  It reminds me of weight training days in college; it reminds me of being on a team.  There is a definite sense of togetherness, which I have really enjoyed and look forward to.  There is a very personal element to these classes.  A lot of these women have been attending his classes for years.  There is history within the walls of studio 2.  He knows mostly everyone by name.  He calls out, jokes, encourages.  For a while, he did not know my name.  The extent to name calling occurred when he called me LMU because I was wearing a LMU cross-country shirt one day in December.  This all changed when last Wednesday, he called me Kelli.  And with just a simple tap on my shoulder and the sound of my name, I felt known and recognized.  It was not until I heard him say “Kelli” that I fully understood my deep, internal desire to be known.  In my normal, self-reflective nature, I thought about how silly and surface-level this was.  Great! A yoga instructor knows my name!  I am recognized in a fitness class.  Why do I care so much about relatively insignificant things?  Why does so much of my head space go towards worrying about human perception?  I guess the answer to that question is because I am human.  I think it all goes back to a deep human desire to be known.  Not just to be known but to be fully known.  The feeling I had in class when I heard my name called does not even scratch the surface to how we should feel when we recognize that we are fully known by the creator of the universe.  If I am in awe of being recognized by a yoga teacher, my reaction to being fully known by God should be infinite times greater.  It amazes me how I get so excited about earthly recognition.  I internally jump for joy when I get another like on Instragram.  I stand a little taller when someone tells me I am fast, pretty, a good writer.  I constantly am asking “did you like that dinner I made?”  to Lance in hopes that my ego could be fed even more.  I could list out example after example of the way in which I seek approval.  This is such a struggle of mine!  Becoming a mother has only revealed this sin in greater fullness.  It has always been there.  Now, I am just actively aware of it.  Anywhere we got out, I am constantly battling the internal dialogue that is telling me all sorts of lies about what other people are thinking of me.  This is so real and crazy in my head.  As I write it out, I can rationalize it and call it for what it is- lies; but in real time, I am a complete slave to those voices that are so concerned with outward appearance.  Lance knows me so well and can instantly tell when I am beginning to get in my head.  Especially recently, he has had to give me constant reminders that no one cares as much as I think they do.  Almost every time we are out he tells me, “No one is looking at you.  No one cares.”  It brings me sadness to think about how much effort, time, energy, worry, anxiety, and head space is given to the concerns of others.  The creator of everything knows not only my name; He knows every part of me.  He knows my greatest fears and dreams, the ones that I am too scared to even voice aloud.  He knows the worse parts of me and he knows the very best.  Not only does He see me for who I am, but He knows who I will become.  When I really sit in all of this, the moment of hearing my name in yoga class, feels so insignificant.

I think this desire runs deep within all of us.  We want to be known.  That is why we chase after degrees, titles, promotions.  This is why we desire to have all those letters after our name whether that be PhD, J.D., ThD.  It sometimes just feels like a really expensive alphabet.  But, we chase after it.  Each letter we tack on to our real name with pride. Chasing after ambition is not a bad thing, but I do think we need to remind ourselves of our roots.  We must remind ourselves of the parts of us that won’t change, that are not based on degree or fame or marriage status.  The Lord does not see us for the Mrs. or Miss in front of our names.  He does not see us for all those fancy titles that follow our names.  He does not see us for how many times our last name may or may not have changed.  He sees you as His daughter or son.  You are more than your name or your titles.  You are loved by the King.  This knowledge alone is enough.  I say all this, but I struggle in truly believing this at times.  I live my life knowing I am a daughter of His, but there is still such a huge part of both my head and heart space that cares about those other titles and recognitions.  Are you there with me?  Are you also internally jumping up and down when someone calls you by name and sees your worth?  Are you also hoping for more likes on that post?  I sure am.  But I am working on it.  It is a constant battle and a constant place of reminder.  I don’t need to perform or raise my hand or shout out.  I am already fully known by God.  This is enough.  This allows me to let go of every desire and part of myself that cares to be recognized.  I am His regardless if I am just LMU in a yoga class.

A Heart Fill Up

This mama needs a heart fill up.  My heart was low this week.  It was in need of a fill up.  Just like the way I drive my car, my heart is often on empty while I keep pushing through the miles without taking the time to do what I really need…fill up! I am not sure what it was.  Maybe it was the after-Thanksgiving rush.  The Black Friday and Cyber Monday push to consume and save.  Maybe it was all the Christmas decor messily spread throughout our home.  Maybe it was the fact that I have a baby that refuses to sleep through the night.  Regardless of the exact reason, I felt slow this week.  I felt unproductive.  And mostly, I felt plain tired.  Mondays are my clean-up days.  On Mondays, I mostly regroup from the weekend rush and get the house back in order. Sweeping up all of Nala’s golden hair, dusting, reorganizing, folding laundry.  This Monday none of that seemed to happen.  So the rest of the week I felt behind and questioned how it seems like I only seem to be able to take care of Hudson and make dinner in a full day when most people are out in the world being productive and busy and important. These are the lies I tell myself.

On Thursday, I got my much needed fill up.  The rain almost stopped me from getting what I really, truly needed, but thankfully it did not.  Thursday was the day I went to visit my students at the school I taught the past two years at.  The night before when I looked over the weather forecast, I thought to myself, if it is rainy really hard in the morning, I will just reschedule.  And it was rainy really hard in the morning.  The easy thing would have been to just choose another day.  The students did not even know I was coming.  Just my one teacher friend knew.  While this was the easier thing to do, I really felt God tugging on my heart to go.  So I went.  While I was stuck in rainy LA traffic and had a screaming 5 month-old in the back of my car, I questioned if I heard God correctly.  But I kept driving.  When I pulled up to the school, it began to come down even harder.  I quickly wrapped my oversized scarf over my head, draped a blanket over Hudson’s carseat and ran towards the school’s entrance.  I felt slightly crazy. Why was I doing this?  But literally right when I pulled open the metal gate, two students called out “Mrs. Capel!” and ran towards me, grabbing Hudson, and helping me get out of the rain.  It was right when I heard that “Mrs. Capel” that I knew I heard Him right. This was where I was supposed to be on this rainy Thursday morning.

From that moment on, I was filled up with so much love.  It came in the form of hugs, smiles, and “we miss you so much”.  In a lot of ways, I have not missed teaching.  I have not missed the tremendous stress, the endless grading, the repeated disciplining.  However, I have absolutely missed them.  They were absolutely the very best part of my job and I miss them daily.  I miss them so much that I do sometimes wonder if it made sense to leave the school.  But then I look at my sleeping baby on the monitor as I type this and I know I made the right decision.  I miss all of my students so much, but I know I would miss even more this precious time I get with my little Hudson and for that I am very grateful.  I am learning that you simply cannot have it all or do it all.  I wish I could.  But I can’t.  I think I will always be in a season where I will be missing something or someone.  And that is okay.  While it is okay and even good to miss what we no longer have, I hope that I never miss things too much; that I prevent myself from soaking in all the good things I do have.  Because there is a lot of good to be soaked in.

I left that Thursday afternoon, with my heart filled to the brim.  I drove away feeling so thankful I went. So thankful for all of those kids I got to teach. And so thankful for Hudson.  Sometimes we need fill ups.  Actually, daily we need fill ups. I daily forget who I am.  I daily need to be reminded of the promises of God in scripture.  Because the reality is the world is hard and messy and not always pretty; and each day the chaos of the day can cause me to forget who I am in Christ.  This daily fill up typically comes in the form of reading my Bible, praying, and being alone.  I am a fan of being alone.  But, I am learning that being with good people also is a big source of encouragement, energy, and love for me.  Thursday was full of good people and rain.  I am thankful for both.  And I am thankful I listened to those whispers to go out.

A Letter to My Grandma

Last week was one of those very unexpected hard, hard weeks.  My 99 year-old grandmother passed away.  This woman was much more than just a grandma to me. She is one of the woman that has most inspired me to strive to be a woman of grace, kindness, and poise.  This past week I have been flooded with all my fondest memories of her.  While unfortunately a lot of them take place ten plus years ago, I am so thankful for her last years that I got to visit her in her nursing home.  Some of those last memories I have of her, while she no longer was quite as talkative or energetic, are still some of my fondest.  While not much went on and not much was spoken, I now treasure those last raw moments we had together on her bed, holding hands, and her telling me to “run along now…Lance is waiting for you.”  She was always so concerned with me getting home to him.  This was just who she was.  My heart aches.  I already miss her so much.  While I wish I could of written this letter prior to her passing, I wanted to share this letter in memory of my grandma (May 9, 1919 – October 24, 2018).

Dear Grandma,

Remember that night I called you to pick me up because my sister was sick and I wanted to be out of the house? I remember that night so clearly.  I think I was probably just 7 or 8 years-old.  I can still see you pulling up in front of our house to pick me up.  To me, you have always been such a place of comfort and happiness.  I loved our evening together.  I remember driving to the Ralph’s to get popsicles.  I remember sleeping with you in your bed.  While I don’t remember this, I am sure you made eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and half a grapefruit with a cherry on top for breakfast.  I love sourdough and grapefruits because of you.  Honestly, I don’t even particularly love the bitterness of grapefruit, but it is one of my favorite morning fruits because it reminds me of you.  Grapefruits now are much more than a pink, bitter fruit.  Grapefruits are happiness.  Grapefruits are peace. Grapefruits are fun (especially with a cherry on top).

I hope you know how much I love you.  As a little girl, I adored you.  As a young woman, I admire you.  I admire your strength.  You are one of the strongest woman I know.  Not everyone can make it 99 years.  I know that is a long time, and I know those latter years were probably not your favorite, but you endured.  You held on and even in the harder last days, you laughed and you loved. You even met your first great-grandson, Hudson.  I was so touched by the amount of gratitude you demonstrated in being able to meet him.  You just kept repeating his name, and stated how lucky you were.  We are the lucky ones.  We have been so blessed by your life, grandma.  You have taken such good care of all of us, and continue to do so as Lance, Hudson and I live in your house.  Now that you have passed, in some ways it has been hard living in your old house.  However, I am also thankful for it.  I am daily reminded of you as I look out the kitchen window and see the purple flowers (purple was one thing we always had in common).  I smile as I play with Hudson and Nala in the side yard and think about you chasing after me as a little girl.  I feel your presence as I prepare dinner for our family in the kitchen using the very same rice cooker you used to make so many delicious meals for all of us.  While at times, my heart feels so heavy as I look at all the things that remind me of you, my heart also feels so much gratitude for your life, for the fact that I had 24 years with you, and for everything you have done for our family.

Not only do I admire your strength, I admire all the skills and talents you possessed.  You were so incredibly gifted. While it has been years, dinners at your house were always my favorite. I loved all the Japanese flavors you always incorporated.  There was something about the food you made.  Even something as simple as eggs, it always seemed to taste better coming from your kitchen.  I can still remember picnics we had with you and grandpa.  You would make a certain type of chicken. It was the most delicious chicken. These memories now are faint because these picnics were about 20 years ago, but I loved them.  I loved being with both you and grandpa and I loved that chicken you made.  Besides your food, you also made beautiful blankets.  I think your knitting largely helped keep your brain so sharp.  When I packed for college, I can remember one of the few things I packed that I felt like I needed was the beige knitted blanket you made me.  This might have been one of the last things you knitted.  It was around my sophomore year that I decided I wanted to learn to knit.  At the time I did not make the connection, but reflecting back, I am certain this was because of you.  I was only able  to make a knitted rectangle, but I hope to one day pick it up again and make blankets just like you.

Of all that you taught me, the piece that sticks with me most is the way in which you loved.  You loved with such an open heart.  You loved your family, your friends, the Dodgers, playing cards, the color purple, and hummingbirds.  You loved everyone in your life so well, and you were loved so incredibly much.  I think back to the day you picked me up when I could not stand to be in the house because my sister was sick.  I think that memory is so imprinted in my head because it captures the abundant love you had for me and the equally abundant love I had for you.  This love will never stop. I will forever love you, grandma. Thank you for everything.

P.S. I cannot wait to show Hudson the pictures of you and him, and tell him about his amazing great-grandmother.

Love Your Granddaughter,

Kelli